When they faced the Detroit Red Wings just 10 days ago, the Nashville Predators were in seventh place in the Western Conference. They've since fallen to the verge of missing the postseason altogether.
With time running out, the slumping Predators try to help their fading playoff hopes when they visit the Red Wings on Thursday.
On March 29, Nashville (39-33-8) beat Detroit (51-19-9) for the third time this season, winning 4-3 to take a one-point lead over St. Louis for seventh in the conference. The Predators also were still in contention for sixth place, sitting two points behind Columbus.
Since then, however, Nashville has gone 1-3-0 to drop into ninth place with only two games remaining. The Predators are two points behind Anaheim and St. Louis for one of the final two playoff spots in the conference.
"Our guys are not going to quit until the end," coach Barry Trotz said after Nashville's 4-2 loss to Chicago on Tuesday. "We have a daunting task at Detroit. Hopefully, we will take care of business there and go on to Minnesota and take care of business. We also need a little bit of luck."
Trotz's team is looking to bounce back after a frustrating loss to the Blackhawks. The Predators gave up three goals in the second period - two in the first 50 seconds - after Vernon Fiddler had put them ahead in the first.
"We were in stun mode for a bit there," Trotz said. "That might be the worst 38 seconds of the year."
Jason Arnott scored his 30th goal of the season 3:29 into the third period to cut the deficit to one, but Nashville gave up an empty-net goal to put the game out of reach.
The Predators have reached the postseason the last four years.
The Red Wings, meanwhile, also need some luck if they have any chance at catching San Jose for the best record in the West. They are six points behind the Sharks with three games remaining.
Detroit has improved its play recently, winning two straight after losing four of five. It is coming off a 3-1 win at Buffalo on Monday.
The Red Wings scored three times in the third period of that victory, including two goals from Marian Hossa, who reached the 40-goal mark for the third time in his career.
Hossa wasn't the only Red Wings player to reach a notable plateau. Chris Osgood made 32 saves to earn his 389th career victory and tie Dominik Hasek for 10th on the NHL list. Nicklas Lidstrom, meanwhile, scored an empty-netter for his 227th career goal, moving him into a tie with Kevin Hatcher and Steve Duchesne for 12th among NHL defensemen.
"We seem to have found our way," coach Mike Babcock said. "We've got a proud group. We've got good leadership. I think they said, 'Enough's enough, let's get playing again.'"
Hossa has especially picked up his game. He has five points in the last two wins after tallying one goal and an assist during the previous five games.
After Thursday, the Red Wings play a home-and-home series with Chicago beginning Saturday.
"These are difficult games," Osgood said. "Everybody we seem to be playing of late seem to be on the brink of making (the playoffs) or fighting somebody else for a playoff spot. It's good games for us going into the playoffs. It gets us as playoff-ready as possible."
|G. De Vries||70||1||4||5||-13||65||0||0|